A ban on the U.S. military’s use of anti-personnel land mines outside of the Korean Peninsula has been lightened by the Trump administration. A new Defense Department policy will be released detailing out how and when U.S. military commanders can deploy land mines that have been equipped with self-destruct or self-deactivation mechanisms.
The new policy will only allow the use of land mines with a 30-day self-destruction or self-deactivation feature. These mines have self-destruct timers that can be set for hours or up to 30 days. According to the Pentagon, these types of landmines have a 6-in-1 million chance of remaining active after a pre-determined time.
The ban on the use of land mines had been implemented under the Obama administration in 2014. That ban allowed the U.S. to meet the conditions of the 1997 Ottawa convention barring the use of anti-personnel land mines that didn’t self-destruct. Numerous countries around the world have banned the use of these types of weapon. Jim Mattis, Trump’s first defense secretary, authorized the review of the U.S. ban.
The White House released a statement saying the ban interfered with the president’s “steadfast commitment to ensuring our forces are able to defend against any and all threats.” Defense Secretary Mark Esper commented, “I think land mines are an important tool that our forces need to have available to them in order to ensure mission success and in order to reduce risk to forces.” Victorino Mercado, who is performing the duties of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy, Plans and Capabilities, said he did not expect to see land mines being used in current conflict zones like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.
The use of the devices is controversial due to the number of civilians maimed or killed annually from un-exploded anti-personnel mines from previous conflicts. Thousands of land mine casualties are reported each year, but the vast majority impact civilians. About 70 percent of the casualties caused by land mines in 2018 were civilians, according to a report from the Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor. The percentage of civilian casualties had been as high as 87 percent in previous years.